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Does Trader Joe’s Allow Dogs in 2023? Store Policy & FAQs

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Trader Joe's

Trader Joe’s is a popular grocery store in the U.S.A. Many dog owners like to take their dogs with them whenever they go shopping. Places like Trader Joe’s, however, have a “no-pet” policy due to hygiene issues. Unless your dog is a trained service dog, they are not allowed in Trader Joe’s.

There’s a great deal of confusion about the types of places that dogs are allowed to visit. While stores like PetSmart, Michaels, Home Depot, and many others allow all dogs, there are just as many that only allow service dogs. Here, we go over the reason that your pet isn’t allowed in Trader Joe’s.

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Why Aren’t Dogs Allowed in Trader Joe’s?

Grocery stores like Trader Joe’s, Walmart, and Costco all have a blanket ban on dogs. So, unless your dog is a service dog, they are not allowed inside the store.

There are a few reasons for this: A dog or another animal can create a problem due to their behavior, and there are sanitation concerns. Both endanger the welfare of customers, so a store will prohibit pets to ensure that it provides the best service to everyone.


The biggest issue when it comes to dogs in any grocery store is hygiene. There is often open food in grocery stores, and the presence of a dog or any other animal poses a risk of contamination. Dogs can bring in dirt, trail fur all over the place, or simply use the bathroom where they shouldn’t.

Due to the hygiene risk posed by dogs in food stores like Trader Joe’s, a “no-pet” policy is employed by grocery shops to ensure everyone’s safety. The only exceptions to this are service dogs, as they are trained to uphold behavioral standards that are much higher than those for regular dogs.

dog in shopping cart
Image Credit: skrotov, Shutterstock


Some dog owners don’t train their dogs at all, and many of the dogs that are taken to places like Trader Joe’s aren’t fully trained or even housebroken.

Even for dogs that are trained, they aren’t expected to meet the high, exacting standards expected of service dogs. Where a service dog will face a distraction with professional calm, your pet dog might bark excessively or jump up at a stranger whom they want to greet.

Bad behavior not only endangers your dog, the staff, and the other customers, but it also puts a negative light on fully trained service dogs. Your dog might also pose a large enough distraction that they interfere with the duties of a real service dog if there’s one around. This can be dangerous for the handler if their dog is too distracted to alert them to a problem.

Are Service Dogs Allowed in Trader Joe’s?

Although Trader Joe’s has a blanket ban on pets in its stores, the exceptions are service dogs. They are “trained to perform a task directly related to a person’s disability” and are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They are working animals, not pets, and are allowed in places that have a “no-pet” policy.

Since the service dog needs to accompany their handler everywhere to provide the service that they’re trained for, businesses can’t refuse entry to the handler or their service dog. There are cases when a service dog might be asked to leave if they’re not behaving in the manner expected of them, though—for example, if a service dog isn’t housebroken or they get out of control and the handler cannot correct the behavior.

However, if a service dog is providing the service that they were trained for—such as barking to alert someone of an issue with their handler—neither the dog nor the handler can be asked to leave.

two leashed dogs at a shopping mall
Image Credit: heychli, Shutterstock

Are Emotional-Support Animals Allowed in Trader Joe’s?

Since service dogs are the exceptions to “no-pet” policies, you might wonder whether your emotional-support animal (ESA) is allowed in grocery stores like Trader Joe’s. Unfortunately, ESAs aren’t protected by the ADA and do not have the same rights as service dogs. This means they aren’t allowed in Trader Joe’s.

Although ESAs are instrumental in supporting their owner’s mental and emotional health and are frequently used in therapy, they aren’t trained to help with disabilities. The laws in some states can differ regarding ESAs, but overall, these dogs aren’t trained to work with just one person and are intended to provide comfort rather than a service.

To help you understand the difference between ESAs and service dogs, here’s an example: An ESA will provide comfort and companionship to someone suffering from anxiety, but they won’t alert their handler to an approaching panic attack. A psychiatric service dog will alert their handler and is trained to reduce the attack’s impact or help their handler avoid it.

While an ESA might make a situation easier for someone with anxiety, the assistance provided by a trained service dog is often lifesaving and essential for the handler’s independence.

What Happens If You Take Your Dog Into Trader Joe’s?

Trader Joe’s might have a “no-pet” policy in place, but some dog owners disregard this rule. They sneak their dog in by pretending that they’re a service dog or by carrying their toy breed in a handbag or stroller. This doesn’t mean your dog is welcome in Trader Joe’s, and it often makes it harder for people who do need the assistance of a service dog.

The staff in businesses like Trader Joe’s may ask whether your dog is a service dog and what task they’re trained to perform. However, they are not allowed to ask to see certification or a demonstration or request more information about your disability. The behavior of fake service dogs can reflect badly on fully trained individuals, and the staff will likely ask you to leave if your dog demonstrates behavior that doesn’t reflect the impeccable training that service dogs go through.

If you take your dog into Trader Joe’s and they cause a problem—whether it’s lunging at customers, barking excessively, or just peeing in the aisle—you will be asked to leave.

dog in shopping cart
Image Credit: Makruha_Konstantin, Shutterstock

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Unless your dog is a fully trained service dog that needs to be with you to help with your disability, your dog isn’t allowed in Trader Joe’s. Don’t be tempted to pretend that your dog is a service animal to enter stores that don’t allow pets. The gesture reflects badly on you, your dog, and real service animals.

Leave your dog at home while you’re shopping, or hire a pet sitter so you know that they’ll be okay while you’re gone. By leaving your pet at home, you’ll be respecting your fellow customers and the staff and letting trained service dogs do their jobs without interference.

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Featured Image Credit: Trader Joe’s (Image Credit: Anthony92931, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)

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